| Hakim Hayat |
VISUALLY impaired Bruneian, Norali Ali Yusop defied the odds when he successfully completed the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon recently by crossing the finish line in 63 minutes in the 10km category.
Sharing his experience with the Borneo Bulletin, the 2012/2013 Chevening Scholar who is also an Education Officer at the Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education (MoE) said he felt privileged to be invited by Standard Chartered Dubai to take part in the prestigious event, and fortunate to be able to rub shoulders with the world’s best marathon athletes while running alongside thousands of tough amateur runners like himself.
Norali alongside his running guide, Marcus Bailey, crossed the finish line eight minutes behind their initial target of 55 minutes, but running with 25,000 other runners in the marathon that took to the streets of Dubai was already a good challenge.
“You can probably imagine trying to run in a clear path at our regular pace was quite a challenge for the both of us. In spite of that, it still felt like a worthwhile experience knowing that we were raising awareness and contributing to the cause of ‘Seeing is Believing’,” Norali said.
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon was Norali’s first, for he has participated in numerous 21km and 10km challenges at the national, regional and international arena.
“Besides the unique vibrant and energetic feel each event has to offer, I think one obvious difference between them is the weather factor. In London, I was running at temperatures below zero; the opposite of Brunei and Singapore, where the weather is always hot and humid. Dubai at this time of the year however, is just nice with temperatures ranging from 10 to 15 Celsius, which to me felt like the ideal running condition,” he added.
In Dubai, Norali was also invited to share his life story with students at schools, special needs community centres and corporate organisations.
Together with Norali were Henry Wanyoike and Joseph Kibunja, gold medallist and currently the fastest blind marathon runner in the world.
He is also Standard Chartered’s goodwill global ambassador for ‘Seeing is Believing’.
Norali shared that during each visit, they had a chance to share their inspirational story, reveal the challenges they faced as people with disabilities and most importantly shared the life lessons they had learnt from overcoming their own difficulties.
“According to the feedback received by the organiser, the audience was very much inspired and touched by our resilience to go beyond our blindness to achieve success despite the hardship we had to endure. And this gave some of the parents hope for their children, particularly those with severe special needs,” he said.
Norali who lost his sight following a severe case of meningitis when he was 17 years old said ever since, he persevered to not only carry on as normal, but also to achieve great things by continuously setting personal challenges for himself.
“People with disabilities like me are often seen as inactive, withdrawn or angry. But people forget that just because I am officially disabled doesn’t necessarily mean that I cannot be truly enabled. When I show them the sort of things I am able to do, they immediately think it’s extraordinary.
“They think that I am living life as if I have no limits and this shatters their preset perception about what people with disabilities can actually do. This forces them to abandon their negative assumptions and low expectations towards people with disabilities, and rebuild it from the ground up to a more positive view on our abilities. And this is why I do what I do – to change attitudes so we can be accepted as part of human diversity, not as human deficits,” he said
When he lost his eyesight, Norali said he thought his life was over.
“But now, instead of wallowing in the dark, I have decided to believe that better days would come and all that had happened was for a divine purpose – a blessing in disguise. I believe that there was a reason why it had happened to me and now I know that I’m fulfilling that purpose,” he said.
Norali further added that to him, it was not what happens to us that makes or breaks us.
“It is what we do after that. So whatever happens to us, whether it’s an unexpected health issue, bad business deals or failed relationships, always remember to never put your life on hold just so you can dwell on the unfairness of past hurts.
“Move forward despite the adversities of life and always be guided by your own aspirations and vision. I may have lost my eyesight but I never lost my vision to succeed in life.”